The NBA has been extremely popular in China for the last 20 years but the same can’t be said for some of the other leagues like the MLB and the NHL. China which has over 1.4 billion people is one of the most lucrative markets in the world and the NHL is looking to break into China and create a new market audience.
NHL Investing Into China
The NHL has already sent a number of its franchises to organize youth camps in China to develop interest in the game and also to establish its footprint. Now the NHL is going one step further by organizing two exhibition matches between the Los Angeles Kings and the Vancouver Cannucks.
The first exhibition match will take place in Shanghai on 21st September and will be broadcasted in Canada around 7.30 am ET while the second match will take place in Beijing on 23rd September and will be broadcasted in Canada around 3.30 am ET. The two teams have already made the long trip to China and have been part of a few warm up sessions so far.
The NHL dropped out of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang earlier this month citing logistical concerns but did confirm that it would be interested to participate in the 2022 Olympics in Beijing. The NHL will continue to take steps to popularize its brand in China during the next 5 years and if everything goes as per plan, the NHL should have millions of Chinese fans by the time the 2022 Olympics takes place.
Players Told To Enjoy Themselves
For most of the players in the Cannucks and Kings squad, this is their first trip to China and they were very excited to experience a new culture and play in front of a Chinese audience. The Cannucks have played poorly during the last two NHL seasons and have finished in 28th and 29th spot. Travis Green, coach of the Vancouver Cannucks has an uphill task when the NHL season starts but for now, he has asked his players to concentrate on the two exhibition matches and have fun as it was a once in a lifetime experience for them.
Henrik Sedin, captain of the Vancouver Cannucks wasn’t very thrilled to be on a long haul flight but said that he understood how important the Chinese market was to the NHL and looked forward to playing in the two exhibition games.